Gnocchetti Sardi with pancetta and pesto is a deliciously creamy pasta dish that’s just perfect as a quick and easy midweek meal. Made with Gnocchetti Sardi, also known as Malloreddus, this creamy pesto pasta recipe is comfort food at its best but slightly lighter thanks to using creme fraiche instead of heavy cream.
This Gnocchetti Sardi with pancetta and pesto recipe comes together in just 20 minutes, but it’s easily one of the best pasta recipes I know how to make.
It combines deliciously crispy pancetta bites with basil pesto, and the sauce is made creamy with creme fraiche instead of heavy creamy. It’s just the perfect treat at the end of a busy day.
I love to make this recipe with Gnocchetti Sardi, also known as Malloreddus, because they have the perfect shape to house the crispy pancetta bits and capture the creamy pesto sauce, but you can definitely make it with any other pasta shape you like.
Why you’ll love this Gnocchetti Sardi recipe
- It’s decadently delicious without heavy cream.
- You can have it on the table in 20 minutes.
- It’s perfect with shop-bought or homemade pesto.
What goes into this creamy pesto pasta
Gnocchetti Sardi — Also known as Malloreddus, Gnocchetti Sardi (or Gnocchi Sardi) is a traditional pasta shape from Sardinia.
Gnocchi Sardi is typically served on special occasions in Sardinia with a variety of sauces.
This pancetta and pesto sauce does not necessarily need to be made with this pasta shape, but I just find it perfect for capturing the small pancetta cubes.
You can use any other short pasta for this recipe, like orecchiette or fusilli, for example.
Olive oil — You only need a splash of extra virgin olive oil to saute the shallot and pancetta in.
Shallot — You can use any type of onion here. I prefer shallots because they have a milder flavour that’s not overpowering in this pesto sauce.
Pancetta — Both smoked and unsmoked pancetta cubes are great for this sauce.
You can substitute pancetta with bacon lardons or skip it if you want to make this pasta sauce vegetarian.
Garlic — Freshly chopped garlic is best for this recipe —feel free to add more if you like pasta sauces on the garlicky side.
Pesto — Making this pasta with shop-bought pasta is very convenient. I like to use the pesto from the fresh pasta aisle, but any basil pesto would do. If you have time, you can also make your own pesto.
Creme fraiche — This sauce is made a bit lighter by using creme fraiche instead of heavy cream.
It’s best to have the creme fraiche at room temperature before adding it to the sauce because it’s easier to incorporate that way.
Pine nuts — these are optional but highly recommended if you want your pasta to have a bit of a crunch.
How to make gnocchetti sardi with pancetta and pesto
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it generously and cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the package. Reserve 1-2 cups of pasta water before draining.
Add the pancetta cubes and cook for 4-5 minutes until crispy. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute.
Lower the heat, then transfer the cooked pasta to the pan and toss well to combine.
Stir in the pesto and creme fraiche, adding some pasta water to reach a smooth, creamy consistency.
Recipe notes and tips
- This pasta is best served immediately. If you have any leftovers, they will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can reheat them in the microwave, but the texture won’t be quite the same.
- You can add sundried tomatoes, artichokes or grilled zucchini to this creamy pesto pasta sauce.
- Skip the pancetta to make this pasta sauce vegetarian.
If you liked these Gnocchetti Sardi with pancetta and pesto you might also like some of my other easy pasta recipes:
- Lemon Butter Garlic Pasta Sauce (Pasta al Limone)
- Easy Pork Ragu Pappardelle
- Easy Chicken Pesto Pasta
- Tuna Red Pesto Pasta
- Cajun Chicken and Shrimp Pasta
- 250 g (½ lb) short pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium shallot, finely diced
- 200 g (7 oz) pancetta cubes
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons green basil pesto
- 200 g (1 cup) creme fraiche
- 6-8 fresh basil leaves, roughly shredded
- 20 g (2 tablespoons) pine nuts, toasted
- 30 g (⅓ cup) grated Parmesan
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it generously and cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the package. Reserve 1-2 cups of pasta water before draining.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, deep pan and fry the shallot over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until slightly softened.
- Add the pancetta cubes and cook for 4-5 minutes until crispy. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute.
- Lower the heat, then transfer the cooked pasta to the pan and toss well to combine. Stir in the pesto and creme fraiche, adding some pasta water to reach a smooth, creamy consistency.
- Stir in the basil, pine nuts and grated Parmesan. Season to taste and serve immediately, with some extra grated Parmesan on top if you like.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 724Total Fat: 64gSaturated Fat: 26gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 32gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 367mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 14g
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator.